Craig Smith cleared off waivers Monday and was in the lineup to face the Panthers, skated to the #4 right wing in the Bruins’ 7-3 win. Smith ended up dropping one shot and two hits in the 10:33 ice time in the victory.
The Bruins, who think they can sneak Smith’s expiring $3.1 million salary cap that’s been passed through the exemption wire, were hoping for a little respite for the holidays. Burying Smith’s contract in the AHL allows for the accumulation of cap space—which is calculated by the day—until the next trade deadline, which is March 3.
It doesn’t look like Smith, 33, would have needed to be informed of the waiver process. Smith, a 12-year-old NHLer with 807 games now, joins Nick Foligno, Mike Riley, Chris Wagner and Anton Stralman as waived veterans this year by the tight end Bruins. Unlike Reilly, Wagner (who are in the AHL), and Stralman (who is currently not playing anywhere), Smith was sticking.
He can follow the path of Foligno, who was waived before the season opener and has since played in every game.
“Manipulating the roster is something we need to do, just to protect cap positions,” Bruins coach Jim Montgomery said of Smith’s situation, before touchdowns on Monday. “All I know is working with him [general manager] It’s Don Sweeney when he says, “This is what we need to do,” he’s done his homework and I’m listening to him about anything like that.
“Smitty played one of his best games last year. So we don’t expect any changes to the squad [Monday]But we have to be patient with that because of the concession process.”
The NHL’s holiday roster freeze begins at 11:59 p.m. Monday and ends at 12:01 a.m. on Dec. 28. Trading activity, loans and assignment are prohibited during that time. Teams can summon players from the minors, even to exceed the 23-player limit.
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A line switch is usually a sign of a coach not producing his team. While he has turned his forward triple-double and defensive doubles due to poor performances, Montgomery is reaping the benefits of a lineup that has synergy across multiple sets.
The Bruins have seen perhaps half a dozen line combinations in the top six play a good number of minutes together. The duo of Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron tied Jake Debrusque on Monday, but those two have skated with David Pasternak a lot this season and in previous years.
There’s the Czech line, Pavel Zacha-David Kreji-Pasternak. Taylor Hall rides with Krejci and Pastrnak, and Krejci can ride with Hall and DeBrusk. Zacha played in the middle, briefly joining Marchand and Bergeron.
When Marchand was shelved at the start of the year, Montgomery had to come to terms with that. With his team going off to a record high, he’s basically doing it because he wants to.
“I think you need to move guys around during the season, so you’re in Game 3 of the playoffs, and your #1 spot goes down, there needs to be flexibility,” Montgomery said. “Also, if it doesn’t work out in the playoffs, they’ve seen me do it before. I’ll change guys.”
Moving players to different lines can spark new thinking. Watch Hampus Lindholm and Charlie McAvoy flip the #1 Power Run Unit. Lindholm took the keys Monday because, in Montgomery’s view, the unit had gotten old in the past few games.
“You can do one of two things: put two players in different places on the same unit, kind of to get the left side, or get the creative side of the brain going, or you can switch a player,” Montgomery said. “I don’t know if excitement is the right word, but it stimulates you to be creative.
“It wasn’t because we thought Lindholm is better in the first unit or Charlie is better in the second unit, it was just that all five players in both units were given different blood.”
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Jeremy Swaiman is on a mission. The goaltender, who came within an inch of scoring into an empty net in the dying moments of Saturday’s win over Columbus, committed to becoming the first Bruins goaltender to hit a salary shot.
“I have plenty of time to do that,” said the 24-year-old goalkeeper, who backed up Linus Ollmark on Monday.
After skiing in the morning, he would wonder out loud about other goalkeepers’ point totals, such as that of Henrik Lundqvist (0-27-27 in his career).
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The NHL descended on Fenway Park on Monday, building a rink frame for the January 2 Winter Classic between the Bruins and Penguins. . . Florida defenseman Brandon Montour looked like he was running out of blood. He attempted to flatten the battered Hampus Lindholm in the open ice, but missed and went flying. Late in the first game, he knocked an unsuspecting Matt Grzelcyk off the net by clipping his skates. Grzelcyk returned to start the second half. . . The Bruins had a huge advantage in the middle of the day Monday. Florida arrived without its two biggest centers: captains Alexander Barkov (lower body) and Anton Lundell (upper body), both considered day-to-day. The Panthers found a way to win Saturday night in New Jersey without leaving Lundell and Barkov after 5:49 with his injury. . . The Bruins’ November 23 loss to the Panthers in Sunrise saw them penalized seven times, allowing a solid three goals. Going into Monday, only five teams have captured more minors than the Bruins (125), including the league’s worst Panthers (139). “It has to be improved,” Montgomery said of the minors, referring to a series of stick errors that came from players who didn’t move their feet. The Bruins killed all three penalties they took on Monday.